Antonio Conte has claimed defenders are targeting Diego Costa and seeking to provoke the Spain forward, with the Chelsea manager praising his player’s refusal to react in the fractious 2-2 draw at Swansea City.
Costa took his season’s tally to six goals in five appearances for club and country and it was Costa who dominated this occasion. A trio of Swansea players were booked for fouls on the forward, with Jordi Amat having set the tone two minutes in with an elbow to the small of the back that went unpunished.
“The defenders know him and, sometimes, try to provoke him,” Conte said.
“I was a footballer and this situation is normal. They know Diego is a player with passion and they tried to provoke him. The referee must see and allow Diego Costa to play his football.
“If you ask me if the defenders deserved a second yellow card [for fouls on the forward], I don’t want to reply on this. I want to say, only, that after every game the press ask me about the passion of Diego Costa.
“Today I can say Diego Costa showed fantastic behaviour to control the situation. He took a lot of kicks from the first minute until the end of the game.
“Today I’m pleased because he showed me, he showed his team-mates, he showed everyone that he has fantastic behaviour. Fantastic behaviour. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy.
“It’s incredible the defender didn’t finish [get sent off] before the end of the match.”
That appeared to be a reference to Amat. Costa was booked for a foul on Leroy Fer, and Swansea players suggested he should have been shown a second after going to ground easily in a challenge with Lukasz Fabianski. Yet it was Chelsea who ended the more frustrated after the referee, Andre Marriner, failed to penalise Fer’s foul on Gary Cahill before squeezing the home side ahead just after the hour-mark.
“It’s a clear foul, so I’m frustrated,” Cahill said.
“Come on, seriously … You could be sat on the moon and see it is a clear foul. I took the touch away from him, he came through the back of me. It was clear as day and seeing it back has made me even more angry.
“It’s all fun and games for the fans, isn’t it but it’s the players who suffer.
“That kills me and kills my team. We have dropped two points which is massive in this league. Look at my face. It’s incredible.
“I said to the referee there’s three of you that can see that. There were two fouls, and between the officials they have said that they couldn’t see it. For me that is incredible.”
Conte, who backed Cahill, reiterated Cahill’s assertion that the referee had made “a great mistake”, was just as infuriated his team did not capitalise on their dominance over the first hour, urging them to learn from their profligacy.
“The players showed a fantastic reaction but we had the possibility to kill the game and, if you have that possibility, you must kill the game.
“We must learn from this.”